Using a previous scholarship essay contest we hosted, where our judges received more than 4,000 essays, we noticed some frequent mistakes students make that can instantly disqualify you from an essay contest.
We thought to ourselves, "Hello, learning opportunity!
Here, an example of what NOT to do in an essay – and some tips on making yourself a better candidate for scholarship cash.
Here’s one of the essays we received for a previous scholarship contest, to help you learn the do’s and don’ts of essay writing:
“To be able to hold onto your money you have to know how to manage it. Money management is a complicated process. As teenagers we often have no idea how to manage money and we end up wasting a lot of it. But in a bad economy most of us have had a crash course in what happens when you don’t manage your money properly. We have had to delve into a world foreign and unfamiliar to us and solve our own money problems. The most successful of us have managed to still have some semblance of a social life without going over our small budgets. The keys to doing this successfully are actually quite simple.
Set up your own budget of expenses. Teenagers may not have to worry about paying a mortgage or rent but we do have to be able to pay for gas, insurance for our vehicles, and the never ending list of project expenses and supplies for classes. So you have to sit down and balance what you spend in a month with what you actually make, and whether that’s the money you get for your birthday that you manage to stretch with help from mom’s pocketbook or it’s the minimum wage that you get from the local fast food joint where you have managed to find employment the money comes from somewhere and it needs to be written down.
Review your expenses daily. This includes balancing your checkbook and reviewing your online statements, as well as calculating any emergency expenses that you were not considering. This needs to be fluid as sometimes things come up that you just couldn’t have forseen.
You have to get creative. You are not always going to have the time to sit there with a calculator crunching numbers so create small ways to keep thing balanced without having to. Send yourself easy phone reminders about a few of your expenses. Always bring your school id with you because a lot of places will give students discounted rates. And finally, just remember where your money is going it will help.”
So, what was wrong and what was right?
One thing the essay writer did correctly was to stay within the word count for the contest.
The essay contest stated within the rules that essays should range from 250-350 words and this essay comes in at 349 words. Good job!
Another positive is that the writer stayed on topic and answered the question that was presented.
However, even though the writer did stay on topic, the response took a meandering approach and didn’t take a strong or memorable stance. In short, the “meat” of the essay wasn’t there. Think of it this way: sum up in one sentence what you want the reviewer to know and remember after reading your essay. Did you get that across in a clear and concise way?
Each essay should get across at least one breakout idea (aka, the thesis statement) and the rest of the essay should focus on selling that point. If it’s a new, creative or off-beat idea, focus on selling and explaining that. If it’s a common idea, focus on trying to say it better than anyone else.
Here are a few more examples of what the essay writer did wrong:
Misspellings are the fastest way to ensure an essay is disqualified. When combing through a stack of essays, a judge will first rule out the essays with simple misspellings. Long story short: run a spell check and have someone else you trust look over it. It’s always best to get a second set of eyes.
Incomplete sentences – Remember, each sentence should have a subject (someone or something) and a verb (action). Wondering if your sentence is complete? Here’s a hint: A complete sentence tells a complete thought.
No capitalization –
it’s bad enough not to capitalize words at the beginning of a sentence, but at the beginning of a paragraph it stands out even more! Yikes!
Missing punctuation –
In this example, the writer does not have proper command over the use of commas — namely they are missing in places they should have been added and added places they are not required.
Poor grammar and sentences that don’t make sense –
The essay writer uses poor word choices, improper grammar and mistakes such as having too many spaces between words. Another example of poor grammar is the confusion of grammatical persons — in the beginning of the essay the writer uses the first person plural (we) and toward the end, the writer uses the second person (you).
Run-on sentences –
In this essay, one sentence has 72 words. As a rule, try to keep sentences no longer than 35 words each.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you write an essay. Remember, you don’t want to give the judges any reason to disqualify your essay right off the bat.
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By Molly Martin
Every year, Women in Aviation International (WAI) makes more than 100 scholarships available that in total, are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The scholarships are available for multiple aviation and aerospace disciplines, for different ages, different stages of careers and life, and many are available to applicants all over the world.
In the last 20 years WAI has awarded more than $10 million in scholarships. Thousands of WAI members have realized aviation dreams or furthered their aviation or aerospace career after winning a WAI scholarship.
The process is simple: Select up to three scholarships to apply for and submit the required application materials. But past scholarship winners will tell you that it pays to put your best foot forward, pay attention to details, and deliver an application package that truly sets you apart. We’ve compiled a Top Ten list of tips to help you get started:
1—Be a Women in Aviation International member! WAI scholarships are available for many different areas of aviation and aerospace. You don’t have to be a pilot, an engineer, a student, or hold advanced degrees—but you do need to be a member of Women in Aviation International to qualify for each scholarship. Be sure you have completed the membership application and paid dues before November 1, 2017 to qualify.
2—Follow the rules and pay attention to details. Be sure to read the requirements for each scholarship, as they are all a little bit different. Remember that if you don’t follow the rules for each scholarship, you could be disqualified.
- Do the requirements call for two one-page letters of recommendation? If so, send two letters. No more. No less.
- Does the scholarship you’re applying for require a transcript from your school? Does it need to be certified? Be sure to include the correct number of copies, and be sure that if they need to be certified, they are.
- Do the rules require that you send two complete application packages? Then send two!
- Does the essay need to be 500 words or less? Remember that the team reviewing the scholarship applications is considering dozens and dozens of applications. If your essay doesn’t meet the exact requirements you will be disqualified.
- Type all elements of your application, including your essay.
- If the scholarship requirements call for it, be sure to send clear copies of your government licenses, ratings, logbooks, and other required materials.
- Do the requirements specify that the materials be stapled? If so, staple them. Don’t send bulky folders, files, or bound documents.
- When provided, be sure to use the official forms, and fill them out completely. WAI is offering applicants the ability to apply online this year—be sure all of your attachments are clearly labeled with your name and the scholarship you are applying for. If you prefer not to apply online, type the application if possible—if not, be sure it is legible. Imagine if you were chosen as the winner of a scholarship, but the committee cannot read your email or mailing address.
3—Spend time on your essay and tell your unique story.
- Be passionate and communicate about who you are and why you are the best candidate for the job.
- Don’t submit a generic, one-size-fits-all application.
- This is your opportunity to speak to the scholarship committee. Help them get to know YOU, and help them feel your passion and enthusiasm.
4—Tell the truth. Don’t stretch the truth; don’t get creative with the truth. No exaggerations. Period.
5—Complete the application process in full.
- Answer all the questions…don’t leave anything blank!
- Provide all the requested information and supporting documents. If you forget to include a required document, you could be disqualified from that scholarship entirely.
- Include all the required documents and materials in one package.
6—Don’t miss the deadline…In fact, send your complete application package in early.
- The deadline for all WAI scholarships is November 13, 2017. That means that your submission MUST be postmarked on or before November 13, 2017. If it is marked for any date after November 13, 2017, your submission will not count.
- If you can, send your submission in early! Imagine WAI headquarters in the week following the deadline—hundreds of applications arrive all at once. However, if you’ve sent your submission in early, you can call and confirm that it was received, and the team will have the time and focus to be able to confirm receipt. Also, if your submission is received early, and if there is anything missing, there is a chance that the review team will spot it and you’ll have time to send in the missing piece, so your submission will be considered.
7—Speak directly to the scholarship for which you are applying.
- There are more than 100 scholarships available—read the qualifications of each one carefully and apply for the scholarships for which you are best qualified. Remember that you can only apply for three WAI scholarships per year.
- Don’t send the same application, letters, and essay for both scholarships you are applying for—remember that a successful application will appeal directly to the intent, subject, and requirements of that specific scholarship.
- It takes time for people to write meaningful letters of recommendation and get them back to you. Allow your chosen writer enough time to complete the letter.
- It takes time for college transcripts to be processed and sent to you. Refrain from waiting until the last minute to make the request for your official transcripts.
- It will definitely take time to gather certificates, make copies, and arrange shipping—give yourself plenty.
- It should take time for you to write a winning essay! So, start early!
9—Don’t send additional stuff. The scholarship committee works hard to give each application equal attention and equal weight. Don’t ruin your chances of winning by including photos, videos, or portfolios that aren’t requested.
10—Proofread your submission and keep a full copy for yourself.
- Ask someone else to review the requirements and be sure your application is complete. Also ask them to read your essay and submission. Check for typos, errors, and proper grammar.
- Be sure to keep a complete copy for yourself.
- To be sure your application is received, send your submission via a service that provides a record of delivery, such as FedEx, UPS, or certain USPS special services.
Following these tips won’t guarantee that you’ll win, but you will be more likely to be fully considered, and will avoid being disqualified. WAI is also here to help! Don’t hesitate to call headquarters and ask for clarification if there is something you are unsure of.
Remember, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Give yourself a shot this year and apply for a scholarship—see what doors it opens for you and where it can take you.